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At UN, Buzz of Holmes Leaving, Tibaijuka's Absence, Accountability on Intranet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- At UN's annual signing of "compacts" on Friday morning, the buzz from one Under Secretary General to another was that top UN Humanitarian John Holmes "is leaving to go back to the UK." Later another senior UN official, not present at the Compact signing ceremony, told Inner City Press this same thing.

  Holmes was not present to sign his Compact, being in Haiti. Anna Tibaijuka, removed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon inexplicably from running the UN's Nairobi office, was equally inexplicably not present, even by video conference. Her Nairobi chief successor Achim Steiner, handpicked by Mr. Ban, was present, with the image of a tree behind him.

  Steiner signed two Compacts, as did Cheick Sidi Diarra, still moonlighting between Least Developed Countries, Landlocked and Small Island Developing States and the Special Adviser on Africa position, which some in the General Assembly say has become moribund under Mr. Ban. The Assembly has voted that the post must be filled, but it has yet to happen.

  As in February 2009, Inner City Press was the only media organization there. Even for the photo op, only UN Television and UN Photo were there. Nevertheless, Mr. Ban in his prepared remarked said the UN was making these signings "as public as possible."

  The documents, and reports on performance, will go only on the UN's intranet, not available to the public, to "we the peoples."

  Many of the Under Secretaries General at the ceremony rarely if ever speak to the press. Chief UN lawyer Patricia O'Brien, in her few appearances, has stuck narrowing to issues of the Hariri Tribunal, refusing questions even on the UN's involvement in Cambodia's tribunal.

  Inga-Britt Ahlenius, recently in the media for OIOS' alleged policy of not pursuing former UN employees or third party contractors, has not held a press conference in the Compact annual cycle.

  New Safety and Security chief Gregory Starr has not spoken with the press, other than a single interview with the correspondent of the Washington Times (which recently closed its UN bureau by means of massive layoffs).

  Starr is the only new UN senior office since last year. Now, a needed shakeup may be near.

Last year's group photo by UN, only DSS' Starr is new since then

   Mr. Shabaab Shabaan, while affable, has yet to hold a press conference, despite being in the news for a damning UN Dispute Tribunal decision about his management. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, who sat in the corner during the signing ceremony, announced only that Ban will appeal the UNDT decision, but refused Inner City Press' question for a statement of the basis of the appeal.

  Some absences were more than understandable. Lynn Pascoe, along with Ban's closest advisor Kim Won-soo, was still on his North Korea trip. Mr. Ban told the Press that he spoke with Pascoe, who had not met with Kim Jong-Il to whom Ban sent a leather bound copy of the UN Charter in six languages.

  Neither top peacekeepers, Alain Le Roy nor Susana Malcorra, was present. Inner City Press saw both of them less than an hour later going into the Security Council.

  In the Council, another USG spoke: Alan Doss, whose six line e-mail urging UNDP to show him "leeway" and give his daughter a job is still being investigated by the UN some eight months later. Why does USGs like Doss sign Compacts, and abide by them? As with everything in this UN, it is a work in process, not necessarily in progress. Watch this site.

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UN Says It "Cannot Name and Shame" on Sexual Violence, Silence on Congo Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- The UN on February 9 bragged about its work against Sexual Violence in Conflict, introducing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's new Special Representative on the topic, Margot Wallstrom.

  But when asked why the UN's Mission in the Congo MONUC works with Army united accused of mass rape by the UN's own Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, and why the UN never disclosed any discipline for Sri Lankan peacekeepers sent home from Haiti after being accused of sexual abuse, the UN had no answers. Video here, from Minute 16:23.

Inner City Press asked Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, about a portion of Alston's report describing that

"In Shalio (near Busurungi in North Kivu) it appears that the FARDC, led by Colonel Zimulinda, attacked a makeshift camp of Rwandan Hutu refugees on 27 April 2009. The FARDC surrounded the camp, shot and beat to death at least 50 refugees and burnt the camp to the ground. It also appears that some 40 women were abducted from the camp. A small group of 10 who escaped described being gang raped, and had severe injuries; some had chunks of their breasts hacked off. It is not known what has happened to the other 30 women."

  Inner City Press has previously asked MONUC chief Alan Doss about the report, after it came out in October. Doss never announced any suspension of support to Zimulinda's unit. Rather, he made a misleading announcement of the end of the Kimia II operation. Soon thereafter, it was replaced by another operation, Amani Leo, in which MONUC supports questionable units of the Congolese Army.

  Le Roy on February 9 said that the UN is "vetting unit by unit." He blurred a word, or made a Freudian slip, saying that "Alan Doss knows [or does] very well, each times there is full evidence" of abuse by a unit, "we stop our support." Video here, from Minute 18:50. So does Alan Doss do this well? Or is the claim that he "knows" very well the policy?

  Inner City Press asked why, four months after Alston's report, which was followed by others (with Zimulinda called "Zimurinda"), the UN has apparently done nothing. Video here, from Minute 19:18. There was another recent report of the UN and accused mass rapist Bosco Ntaganda, which some in the UN think was unfair. But what about Zimulinda?

Why does it take the UN four months to study Alston's short report? Why has it taken the UN eight months and counting to "investigate" and act on Alan Doss' six line email to UNDP asking them to show "leeway" and give his daughter a job? Does Doss "do" well, or simply "know" well?

  At the UN, is it all about who you know?

UN's Ban and Alan Doss, investigation of Zimulinda and Doss-mail not shown

   Le Roy answered a question by referring to a new UN web site purporting to provide transparency into the disposition of allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation by UN peacekeepers. Inner City Press pointed to a particular page, here, which reports that the UN made 82 communications about abuse to Troop Contributing Countries in 2009, and got 14 "responses."

  Inner City Press asked, were the responses indications of prosecution? Or merely letters in response? This, Le Roy did not answer. He said "we cannot name and shame," because TCCs don't want it. But nor should the UN give blue helmets and immunity to soldiers who, if they rape, suffer only "repatriation." More disclosures should be made -- we will continue to pursue this. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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